When you think about the topic of preserving food, what comes to mind? And is it positive or negative?
For me, it’s a mixture. Native Americans and other groups taught us plenty about natural food preservation. People have used salt to preserve meat for thousands of years. Sugar has long been a preservative in canning.
Vegetables have been pickled to help preserve their natural vitamin content. And more recently we’ve learned other effective ways to preserve food. Such as freeze-drying and slow dehydration.
But many of the foods we see in stores these days are preserved with unhealthy chemicals. Especially processed foods.
The conclusion, then, is that food preservation is a positive thing. But only if it’s done properly and safely. Let’s take a look at some of the ways food is being preserved today. We can learn from both the good and the bad methods.
The Fight Against Bacterial Growth
First off, what does it mean to preserve food? It means to slow or prevent bacterial growth that could make you sick. Or worse.
The idea is to fight spoilage that can be caused by bacteria. Or by molds, fungus and yeast. Moisture within food is what allows these things to happen.
Preservatives can slow or prevent changes in a food’s texture, color and flavor. This will delay it becoming rancid over time.
Preservatives are also used in medicine and pharmaceuticals. As well as in cosmetics and even in wood.
Natural vs. Manmade
Some preservatives used to protect food and extend shelf lives are natural. Such as salt and alcohol.
Other preservatives are manmade, including synthetic chemicals. Sodium nitrate and sodium benzoate are examples. Others include parabens and formaldehyde.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for studying preservatives in food products. As well as regulating and monitoring them.
A manufacturer must provide scientific data to the FDA. It must prove the substance is safe for its intended use. That’s prior to adding a new food preservative to a food product.
Artificial Preservatives Causing Concern
The food preservation market has been growing in recent years. That’s due to worldwide concerns about food shortages and food contamination.
But there are mounting concerns about artificial preservatives. Even those approved by the FDA. The worry is that they are creating health problems.
For example, benzoates are said to cause nausea and diarrhea. Sodium chloride is linked to hypertension and stroke.
Saccharin has been connected to heart and gastrointestinal tract problems. Nitrate occurs naturally in leafy vegetables. But it can cause carcinogenic properties when added to red meats.
Consumers Focusing on the Natural
Fortunately, more and more people are becoming aware of the contents of their food. Many are demanding natural food preservatives.
Newer preservative strategies include flash freezing without water, salt and sugar. Hermetically sealed containers is another tactic.
Irradiation, also called cold pasteurization, helps preserve foods susceptible to mold or pests.
The chemical compound hydrogen peroxide is also being used. Mainly to preserve bananas and other fresh fruit before it reaches stores.
A Variety of Reasons to Preserve Food
There are plenty of reasons for preserving food. One, of course, is for a more reliable stockpile for an emergency.
Some preserve their food in one fashion or another so they can make their garden harvest last well into the winter. Or perhaps even year-round.
Others preserve food to save and avoid purchasing packaged meals. Or merely to avoid wasting food they’ve grown or purchased.
So, it’s important to know a healthy way to do it. And that brings us to freeze-drying.
The Freeze-Drying Method
Freeze-drying is a process that eliminates nearly all the moisture in a food product. It has less of an effect on the taste of an item than many other preservation methods have.
After the food is frozen in this process, pressure is decreased. Heat is then added to allow the frozen water in the substance to sublimate. The vacuum effect in a freeze-dryer speeds up that sublimation.
In the second drying phase, also called adsorption, the temperature is raised. Bonds are broken among the food and the water molecules.
The vacuum effect can then be broken with a dormant gas before the food matter is sealed.
An Ideal Way to Preserve Food
With freeze-drying, you can pretty much eliminate the moisture content. Moisture is what causes food to spoil in meat, fruits, vegetables and more.
Which is why my buddy Frank uses freeze-drying technology and a careful “low-heat dehydration” method with all his packaged foods.
This method preserves the original color, flavor, aroma and shape of the original food. And allows freeze-dried items to be crushed or sliced into a variety of shapes and sizes. All the way from their original size to powders.
Plus, the mass of the food decreases by at least 70 percent through this process. Despite there being no difference in volume. This process makes food much more portable.
Freeze-drying is a modern method. It can help you preserve your garden produce, create the perfect emergency food supply, or even help you create unique camping meals and healthy snacks.
Simply put, freeze-drying is one of the best and most ideal methods of food preservation for keeping food fresh, and nutritious for years to come.